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FCC Upholds Station Ownership Rules in 2018 Quadrennial Regulatory Review

 |  January 3, 2024

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rejected appeals from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and station group owners for changes in ownership rules, asserting its commitment to preserving and reinforcing existing station ownership regulations. The decision was part of the 2018 Quadrennial Regulatory Review, which the agency was ordered to complete by December 27, after facing prolonged delays.

The FCC’s ruling on December 26 maintains the status quo for TV and radio station ownership rules, refusing to implement significant changes. Notably, the Commission clarified its stance on situations where one of the top four TV stations acquires programming from another top four station in a market and relocates it to a Low Power TV (LPTV) or a multicast channel. The new order explicitly prohibits the transfer of programming to an LPTV or multicast station.

Chairwoman Jessica Rosenthal defended the decision, stating, “For decades, the Federal Communications Commission has had rules that limit the number of broadcast stations a single entity can own.” She emphasized the importance of values like localism, competition, and diversity of ownership, claiming that these principles support jobs and journalism. Rosenthal outlined the remaining core rules, such as limitations on owning all TV stations in a single market and restrictions on national combinations of major TV networks.

Commissioner Brendan Carr dissented from the majority decision, arguing that the FCC should have updated the outdated broadcast radio and television rules to reflect the evolving media landscape. He pointed out the proliferation of streaming services and digital media platforms, noting that the market has significantly transformed since Congress directed the FCC to review these rules every four years in 1996.

Carr criticized the FCC’s failure to act on the deregulatory mandate and adapt to the modern media marketplace. He lamented the Commission’s reluctance to acknowledge the numerous online streaming services that have fundamentally altered the competitive landscape.

The American Television Alliance (ATVA), an advocacy group for pay TV providers, welcomed the FCC’s decision. ATVA spokesperson Cora Mandy commended the Commission for closing loopholes in broadcast ownership rules, claiming that such gaps allowed broadcasters to control the distribution of major networks in markets and contribute to substantial rate hikes. Mandy expressed hope that the FCC’s action would bring relief to consumers and their pocketbooks.

Source: TV Technology